Home    Number 4, 2023

Sanamakhism of Meitei: “New Ancient” Religion of Manipur

[Sanamakhizm u meitei: “novaia staraia” religiia Manipura]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523040036


Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 10.04.2023

Accepted: 01.07.2023

About author(s)

Svetlana Ryzhakova | https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8707-3231 | sryzhakova@gmail.com | Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences (32-a Leninsky prospect, Moscow, 119991, Russia)


Sanamakhism, Meitei, Manipur, ethno-nationalism, tribal religions, traditionalism


Sanamakhism is a noticeable phenomenon in the religious picture of the Indian state of Manipur, the ethno-national religion of the Meitei people, which began to form on the basis of old traditional cults in the 1930s. Adherents of Sanamahism initially opposed their religion as the main form of expression of ethnic identity Meitei (Meiteilon) to Hinduism: they emphasized the forced conversion of Meitei to Hinduism, and the organizations they formed, “Apokpa Marup” in 1930 and “Meitei Marup” in 1945, were in a tough fight against the “Brahma Sabha”. The creators of Sanamahism opposed the caste division of society and emphasized the originality of the mythological narratives and ritual practices of Meitei. The peculiar theology of the “new ancient” religion is based on the interpretation of the image of the god Sanamahi as the main creative principle of the world and the supreme God. The most important element of Sanamahism is a kind of myth-history that uses traditional mythological, ritual and cult elements, but organizes them in a new way. In the last decade of the twentieth century the confrontation between Meitei Hindus and Sanamahists has decreased, and at present there are even some attempts to proclaim the Sanamahism as a sort of “local Hinduism”.

Funding Information

Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 22-28-00505]


Ryzhakova, S.I. 2023. Sanamakhizm u meitei: “novaia staraia” religiia Manipura [Sanamahism of Meitei: “New Ancient” Religion of Manipur]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 4: 41–65. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523040036 EDN: HIXQCY

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